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Tilting at Windmills

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December 29, 2009

DEMINT BLOCKS TSA NOMINEE.... A few weeks ago, there was a mildly embarrassing dust-up over the Transportation Security Administration posting materials online that, if manipulated, revealed sensitive security information. When "The Daily Show" did a segment on this, Jon Stewart highlighted the fact that the TSA doesn't actually have an administrator.

What Stewart didn't mention is why.

An attempt to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day would be all-consuming for the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration -- if there were one.

Instead, the post remains vacant because Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., has held up President Barack Obama's nominee in an effort to prevent TSA workers from joining a labor union.

President Obama nominated Erroll Southers, a former FBI special agent and a counterterrorism expert, to head the TSA a few months ago. Southers is the Los Angeles World Airports Police Department assistant chief for homeland security and intelligence, and the associate director of the University of Southern California's Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events. Two Senate committees considered the nomination, and easily approved Southers with bipartisan support.

But the Senate hasn't been able to vote on the nomination because DeMint hates unions, and isn't sure if Southers might allow TSA workers to organize. Without that guarantee, DeMint not only opposes Southers' nomination, but prefers to leave the Transportation Security Administration without a permanent administrator.

This realization, in the wake of the attempted terrorism on Christmas, should make DeMint back down. It hasn't -- he still supports blocking Southers' nomination until he knows TSA workers won't unionize. The terrorist threat is bad, but the threat of collective bargaining is the real danger.

Also note, congressional Republicans also opposed funding for the TSA, including money for screening operations and explosives detection systems.

The GOP is desperate to politicize the attempted terrorism. That's probably not a good idea.

Steve Benen 9:20 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (27)

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My money is on the MSM not covering this. Not now, not in the future.

Posted by: Vokoban on December 29, 2009 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

"That's probably not a good idea."

Why not? I can count dozens of things that moral, un-hypocritical people would never have dared politicized over the past year... that the Republicans have not only politicized relentlessly, but have done so with breathtaking success.

Posted by: bcamarda on December 29, 2009 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

The GOP is desperate to politicize the attempted terrorism. That's probably not a good idea.

Sure it is. There is no real journalism left in the corporate-controlled media that will hold them accountable.

And because of the President's fetish over "bipartisanship", no one from the White House is likely to bring it up either.

Posted by: SteveT on December 29, 2009 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

I hope POTUS Obama goes on national TV about the attempted bombing and mentions this specifically, the way Sen. Reid called out the GOP on the Surgeon General appointment delay during a swine flu crisis. Then the Repugs backed down - doubletime - and they will again, if publicly denounced.

Posted by: Slader on December 29, 2009 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

So why doesn't the senate use the up or down vote? Why aren't other tactics used by Democrats to move approvals along? The tools are there. The Democratic spine is not.

Posted by: MLJohnston on December 29, 2009 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

They're all a bunch of spoiled brats, those 'congresscritters', used to being pampered, soothed, fussed over. F++king retards

Posted by: Rose Hunter on December 29, 2009 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK


Is DeMint on Al Qaeda's payroll?

Posted by: koreyel on December 29, 2009 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

Read my earlier post. They are all in on it. TSA to boot. Just because there is no "leader" there doesn't mean no one there is working or that there isn't a "second-in-command" there. There is collusion and disfunction abounds in this corrupt Senate that was, by the way, voted-in by the very people about to be blown to smithereens by terrorists being allowed to board airplanes w/o passports. Thinning the herd for profit and healthy war chests. Now, that's the American Way my boys, that's the American Way.

Posted by: Stevio on December 29, 2009 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

There is plenty of blame to go around. Yes, DeMint has blocked the appointment for unjustifiable reasons. But Obama only recently made the appointment. What if this attack had occurred last Summer? We wouldn't have had a TSA head because there wouldn't have been one appointed.

Moreover, if Reid and the Dems in the Senate thought it was so urgent to fill the vacancy they could tell DeMint to take a walk. I recall Reid doing just that to a member of his own party when Dodd put a hold on the FISA legislation back in 2007.

Posted by: square1 on December 29, 2009 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

The terrorist threat is bad, but the threat of collective bargaining is the real danger.

Bingo: to the GOP, unionism really is a greater threat than is Al Queda. Therefore, opposing the TSA nominee on those grounds is merely being ideologically consistent.


Posted by: Zorro on December 29, 2009 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, I think Maddow had a bit on it just last night.

Posted by: msmolly on December 29, 2009 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

I, for one, am wondering why it took until Sept. 13th (!!!) for Obama (or Napolitano) to nominate Erroll Southers. That kind of delay makes DeMint's delay look kinda puny.

Posted by: 3reddogs on December 29, 2009 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

Why should the MSM cover this when not a single Democrat has mentioned it? They don't do research, they just do "he said, she said", so if the Dems don't make an argument the argument won't be reported. They've had many opportunities, but this blog post is the first I've heard of this issue. Instead of stupidly saying that "the system worked", had Sec. Napolitano mentioned that Sen. DeMint had prevented the hiring of a TSA head, the MSM would have been forced to cover the issue.

Posted by: Joe Buck on December 29, 2009 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, the MSM reported it alright. CBS stated that "no one had been appointed for the position". Now what does THAT imply?

Posted by: ML on December 29, 2009 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

DeMint is merely competing with his fellow Republican leaders to be the point man on the crazy talk spewing from the Republican party for some time now! You go Jimmy! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on December 29, 2009 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, the DeMented hold is an abomination. It's the kind of stunt done purely for political gain. It infuriates me and makes me want to shove the behavior in a Rethug's face. And IF that Rethug was better informed than me, would have casually responded "if Obama is so concerned with the leadership of the TSA, why did he take 8 months to appoint Southers?" Do you think this tidbid of information is relative to your point, Steve? I sure as hell do!!!! My thanks to square1 and 3reddogs for their heads-up comments and keeping me from suffering from foot-in-mouth disease.

Posted by: Chopin on December 29, 2009 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

1. A an appointed director would not have prevented this terrorist act from occurring. Directors focus on policy not on the working details. Besides, our Security Secretary had no problem pointing out the problem ("policies that are several years old"). If she new that was a problem why didn't she address it. What was she doing saving for the new TSA Director?
2. Nice try, but you can't blame this attack on the Republican for preventing an appointment to the vacancy.
3. There has been no sense of urgency by the administration to fill this position, if there was they would have found a person that everyone could agree on. Obama needs to spend some time behind his desk working on this and all other vacancies instead of golfing, vacationing, and running around the world apologizing. It's time to get to work Pres
4. You lead by example and Obama's example is play first work later.....that is exactly what his administration is doing.
5. Really not unlike all administrations for the last 20 years. It is more important for politicians to look good than work good and Obama is looking beautiful right now. Nice work Pres. Thanks for stealing my vote.

Posted by: middleclassand screwed on December 29, 2009 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

uh yeah, the notion that a TSA head would have prevented this is kind of far-fetched to begin with--but that doesn't mean that DeMint isn't an obstructionist jackoff either.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on December 29, 2009 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK
. . . they would have found a person that everyone could agree on.

You can write this after seeing what's gone on in the Senate this year? Seriously?

Posted by: noncarborundum on December 29, 2009 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

@Middleclassand screwed:

It's really hard to even know where to start here. I'm not convinced that you aren't a parody troll, since your first point contradicts itself so neatly, but I'll give it a go.

1. In the same breath that you say that a director works on policy details, and that the cause for this attempted terrorist making it on the plane was old policies.

2. We can't blame the attack itself, no, but we can blame Republicans for holding up a position that's important to national security, which is something they used to think was important.

3. There's been a lot of fairly quiet work on getting this position filled for some time, but it's a difficult position to fill. The previous administration went through 3 TSA heads before finding one who would stay in the job, and Kip Hawley wasn't even a particularly good choice for the position. Republicans have been putting holds on almost every single nominee for every position, regardless of what they agree or disagree on. Your argument is just silly.

4. Wow, you really haven't been paying attention the past year. I can't believe that a supporter of the President who took the most vacation time of any president we've ever had (don't deny it; you're posting boilerplate Winger nonsense) would even try to complain about Obama taking a little bit of time off. There are long lists of what Obama has actually accomplished this year, on this and several other sites, so I won't bother to re-post it here.

5. Politicians always have to make themselves look good, and I guess equating Obama with Clinton isn't so far off the mark, but trying to tie him to Bush? Just ridiculous.

Posted by: Kris on December 29, 2009 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks Kris for taking the time!

It is a bit difficult to engage individuals who believe themselves to be middle class and screwed when it seems obvious the only reason they think of themselves as screwed is an awakening from their general political obliviousness into the real world where unlike our previous president who ignored the real world into a 9/11 catastrophe, started policies in the real world and never bothered to pay for them, and thought in the real world America's role was to destroy in order to create!

Yes Kris, now that I think of it, the poster you responded to above is maybe middle class, but most probably screwed because he's been listening to the likes of the crazy talkers - Beck, Limbaugh, and DeMint! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on December 29, 2009 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps Erroll Southers should state on the record that he opposes the TSA from unionizing. Big deal.

Following Steve's logic, unless Southeres is willing to do so then he prefers to "leave the the TSA without a permanent administator."

Posted by: Laura on December 29, 2009 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

So Demint's "obstruction" requires Harry Reid to spend three days in debate, after Obama waited 8 months to nominate someone.... but all the media can do is blame DeMint.... and all the people that can't research for themselves buy into the "hate Demint" media mantra.

Sorry DeMint haters... but look to Obama and Reid first. THEY are the reason there is no TSA administrator. Not DeMint.

Shame on Washington Monthly for such shoddy reporting. Shame on all the media outlets for such shoddy reporting. Heck, if the media was 1/10th accurate, there wouldn't BE a Democratic party, because all they have is the media and bunch of gullible voters.

And we all have to deal with that. Sigh.

Posted by: Darryn on December 29, 2009 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

Not to worry Darryn ... your voting demographic should be dead soon.

Posted by: Gonads on December 29, 2009 at 8:35 PM | PERMALINK

"...requires Harry Reid to spend three days in debate..."

Right, because Reid debating for a a few days is equivalent to Demint putting a hold on Southers' nomination for a few MONTHS (and counting).

"...after Obama waited 8 months to nominate someone..."

An irrelevant argument now, since Obama HAS nominated someone.

"...look to Obama and Reid first. THEY are the reason there is no TSA administrator. Not DeMint."

No, I'm going to look to DeMint first for this, since it is he, and NOT Obama and Reid, who is blocking a vote for Southers.

"Shame on Washington Monthly for such shoddy reporting."

What "shoddy reporting" on the part of Washington Monthly are
you referring to?

"Shame on all the media outlets for such shoddy reporting." Again, what "shoddy reporting" by "all the media outlets" are you referring to? Got any examples, links of any kind?

Posted by: daniel rotter on December 30, 2009 at 3:21 AM | PERMALINK

"Perhaps Eroll Southers should state on the record that he opposes the TSA from unionizing."

Well, he should state this only if, you know, he opposes the TSA from unionizing... unless you're saying that he should make such a statement no matter HOW he feels on the subject, in which case, you're asking him to perjure himself.

Posted by: daniel rotter on December 30, 2009 at 3:29 AM | PERMALINK

TSA moved with commendable speed after the Christmas incident. For the new airport security rules, look here:


Posted by: Mike Licht on December 30, 2009 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK



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